Once upon a time I ran a news site, now I just have opinions on the news. 

Good morning, RVA: Working through, public school facilities, and urban gardening

Good morning, RVA! It's 74 °F already! Expect another hot one today with highs in the mid 90s. As always, stay cool and stay hydrated.

Water cooler

Bridget Balch and Ali Rockett at the Richmond Times-Dispatch have more on the Carter Jones Park community coming together to process the murder of 9-year-old Markiya Dickson. First, it’s a good piece that does a good job of describing the feeling of senseless loss and grief. That’s important, and it’s necessary to make space for that. Second, I’m looking for the City’s leaders to begin working through the loss and grief to figure out how we can make sure this never happens again—that’s Delegates Bourne and Carr; Senators McClellan, Sturtevant, and Dance; the Mayor; City Council; the interim Chief of Police; Superintendent Kamras; and even the Director of Parks and Rec. Someone needs to do something and it needs to be bold, it needs to be new, and it needs to push the envelop of what cities are allowed by the Commonwealth to do to combat gun violence in our communities. You should feel empowered to contact any and all of those folks and ask them for answers. Third, if this is true, it’s unacceptable—from the RTD: “Community members expressed frustration Tuesday evening, saying they are often treated with suspicion when they try to help — like Markiya’s father and another young man who were handcuffed after they brought her bleeding body to the hospital.”

Debbie Truong, who once wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and does so now for the Washington Post, has a piece about the “borderline criminal” state of public school facilities in America—but mostly focuses on Richmond Public Schools. This shouldn’t be new news to any of y’all, but it’s good/terrible to see the inhumane reality of our schools make national news. Something that stuck out to me: Our Democratic Governor was ultimately only able to get $35 million in new money for school construction into his budget, which seems like a lot until you consider RPS’s construction needs alone total $800 million. Perhaps this embarrassing national coverage will push state legislators to finally and fully fund education, as they are required to do. Keep these sorts of things in mind as we get ready for a huge General Assembly election this coming November.

We haven’t even really started a citywide (or regional) conversation about public housing the way we have about public schools. It’s on the horizon, though, and you should read this piece from Melissa Hipolit at WTVR to get a brief but real look at we’re facing. If you’re shocked by the amount of money schools need to rebuild their facilities, just wait until we start talking about rebuilding enough homes to replace all of our aging public housing units.

Roberto Roldan at WCVE says that City Council approved $8.5 million of budget adjustments last night. I agree with Roldan that these sorts of adjustments are a routine part of doing business as a mid-sized City where you never know for sure what’s going to happen throughout the year. For example, Director of Public Works Bobby Vincent says his department’s budget overrun comes from “China’s refusal to continue taking American recycling.” I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that.

Solar farms + data centers seems to be a hot and easy choice for developing large pieces of unused ruralish land. Jonathan Spiers at Richmond Bizsense says Chesterfield wil consider such a thing for their Megasite that sits just south of Route 10 . What’s fascinating to me is the basically autonomous nature of this kind of development. Spiers says that the previous industrial plan for the site, which local humans hated with their whole hearts, could have created “up to 4,000 direct jobs.” The new plan would employ just 100. I’m not sure how I feel about taking 1,700 acres of unused land to house and hold machines, but it’s probably better than more suburban sprawl? Plus you could always delete the data center at some point and build something people-focused and still get the benefit of all that solar power.

Do you want to be an urban gardener? Lewis Ginter will host a 12-week course on “sustainable horticulture, urban greening and community building, to provide citizens with the skills necessary to increase community-supported urban green spaces.” Duron Chavis, the garden’s Manager of Community Engagement says they’re coming to Northside, and I know there are lots of y’all that would love to learn to dig in the dirt up this way and create some more urban green spaces. The application deadline is July 31st, so you’ve got some time to think on it.

Early reminder: There’s a bicycle infrastructure meeting tomorrow. That’s one of my top three favorite types of infrastructure meetings.

This morning's longread

Informed Voting and the Democratic Deficit

This is one of my favorite deep-nerd transportation bloggers, so prepare thyself should you choose to wade in. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff in here, though, and a lot to think about that applies to Richmond as we struggle to grow and set our own path in the face of a continually conservative state government (for now...?). P.S. NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard and YIMBY = Yes In My Back Yard.

The relevance to housing and transportation is that people with mostly local ties tend to be consistently NIMBY. They usually own housing rather than rent – if you live in one place for a long time you benefit from owning more than the average person. They have real local political power, which redevelopment may disrupt by introducing a large cohort of new people into the neighborhood. They have the ability to extort developers into providing community amenities in exchange for getting a building permit. Not for nothing, the vanguard class for YIMBY is working-age people who work for other people and have national social ties rather than local ones.

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: FOIA intrigue, China, and (finally) a scooter permit

Good morning, RVA: Gun violence, scooters, and old-growth forests